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Make your own Christmas crafts

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A festive wreath, infused oils, luxury soap and decorative plates: prepare to impress your nearest and dearest with gifts crafted by your own fair hands.

Kirstie Allsopp’s Christmas wreath

What you’ll need:

  • reel wire; 2cm raised wire wreath frame
  • sack moss (make sure it’s nice and moist)
  • 6-7 big pine branches
  • eucalyptus
  • extra foliage such as myrtle, mimosa, holly and ivy
  • scissors
  • 5-7 stems hypericum berries
  • 7 stems dried English hydrangeas
  • reindeer moss (feathery and silvery)
  • glitter (optional)
  • gauge wire (thicker than reel wire and available in pre-cut lengths)
  • optional decorations such as pine cones, dried orange slices, cinnamon sticks, dried roses, glittery crab apples, berries and peppercorns

Step 1

“To make the moss base, unravel a bit of your reel wire and attach it with a twist to the frame. Now begin placing generous handfuls of sack moss around the frame, packing it tightly together and winding the reel wire around it tightly as you go. Whatever you do, don’t scrimp – the moss should look thick and dense. Do a second layer of moss to really thicken it out and continue binding it with the wire. Don’t worry about it not being neat; the moss won’t be seen when it’s dressed with the rest of the foliage.”

Step 2

“When full, turn the wreath over and cut the wire, leaving a 20cm end. Push it from back to front through the centre of the moss, then back again. Do this a few times until the wire is eaten up by the moss, then twist the last bit around the inner ring on the back of the frame.”

Step 3

“Cut the pine and eucalyptus into pieces about 10-15cm long and begin grouping them into fan-like clusters. They should look luscious and full with no gaps. Snip off any naked pointy bits.”

Step 4

“Place the wreath right side up and lay the first fan-cluster of greenery on top of the moss. Secure by wrapping the reel wire around the stems. Continue covering the moss with small fan-clusters, securing them tightly with wire, until the front of the wreath is completely covered.”

Step 5

“To cover the inside of the wreath, add smaller, finger-sized pieces of greenery and secure them with wire. While doing so, take a good look at the shape of your wreath and lightly tie down any stray foliage. You want it to be even all round. When finished, tie the wire as in step two.”

Step 6

“Now for the fun bit – decorating. It’s essential to have a theme – the wreath pictured has hypericum berries, dried hydrangeas and reindeer moss – but dried roses are exquisite and glittered crab apples look very Christmassy. Before you start, look at your wreath and think about where you’re going to place things. Odd numbers work best and you must always aim for balance.”

Step 7

“Cut the stems of your flowers and berries on a slant so they have a pointy end. Pierce the first berry stem deep into the moss, then continue adding the other berry stems at regular intervals all the way around the wreath.”

Step 8

“Now add the hydrangeas in the same way. If you struggle to get things well into the moss, simply attach them using the gauge wire.”

Step 9

“To add the reindeer moss, bend a length of wire in half, pierce it through the side of a clump and push the ends through to the back of the wreath. Bend into a loop and twist the ends to fasten. The loop shouldn’t be visible with this method. Continue adding reindeer moss around the wreath in this way, filling in the gaps between the hydrangeas and berries.”

Step 10

“To make the hook, take two long gauge wires and bend them into a hook shape. Locate the top of your wreath and pierce the gauge wire through from the back and secure with a twist.”

Kirstie’s Christmas Crafts by Kirstie Allsopp (Hodder & Stoughton, £20)

Infused oils

Fills two 250ml bottles

What you’ll need:

For the rosemary oil

  • 250ml olive oil
  • 5 sprigs of rosemary
  • a pinch of sea salt

For the chilli oil

  • 250ml olive oil
  • 2 tbsps chilli flakes, plus a few extra
  • a pinch of sea salt

ROSEMARY OIL

Step 1

“Gently heat the olive oil, four of the five sprigs of rosemary and the salt in a medium saucepan for 4-5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the oil to fully cool.”

Step 2

“Once the oil has cooled, cover it and leave overnight so the flavours infuse. Remove the old rosemary then pour oil into a clean sterilised bottle with the remaining sprig of rosemary and seal.”

Store the rosemary oil in the fridge – it will keep for a week.

CHILLI OIL

Step 1

“Gently heat the olive oil, chilli flakes and salt in a medium saucepan for 4-5 minutes, until the oil turns slightly red. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the oil to fully cool.”

Step 2

“Once the oil has cooled, cover it and leave overnight so the flavours infuse and the oil takes on the redness of the chilli. Then, run the oil through a sieve to remove the chilli flakes, pour into a clean, sterilised bottle with a few new flakes and seal.”

The chilli oil should be kept at room temperature and will last for several weeks.

trEATS by April Carter (Hardie Grant Books, £12.99)

Pearl Lowe’s decorative china plates

What you’ll need:

  • royalty or copyright-free images or a design of your own to fit the plates
  • A4 inkjet waterslide transfer paper (lazertran.com)
  • inkjet printer (it must be inkjet; this process isn’t compatible with a laserjet printer)
  • old china plates
  • D-cut squeegee (window cleaning rubber blade)

Step 1

“Select your image and print it onto the waterslide transfer paper using an inkjet printer and following the manufacturer’s instructions. Remember the image will ultimately be reversed, so don’t choose a picture that will look odd when it’s back to front; for example, images that contain certain words or numbers. If you are creating your own design, you will need to scan it into your computer first.”

Step 2

“Put the printed design into a bowl of warm water and wait for 60 seconds until the design can be removed from the backing paper.”

Step 3

“On a work surface, slip the design from the backing paper onto the plate and use the squeegee to make it smooth. Wash away any gum from the surface of the design with a clean damp sponge. Leave the plate to dry at room temperature for 8-10 hours.”

Step 4

“Preheat oven to 140°C/Gas Mark 1. Put the plate in for 10-20 minutes to seal the transfer. When the image turns shiny, as if glazed, it’s ready. Turn off the oven and allow the plate to cool a little before taking it out to cool completely. Wash by hand.”

Pearl Lowe’s Vintage Craft by Pearl Lowe (HarperCollins, £20) is out now

All natural luxury soap

Makes nine bars

To make lemon soap you’ll need:

  • gloves
  • heatproof bowl
  • pan
  • spatula
  • spoon
  • square mould (you can buy one on soapsuppliers.co.uk)
  • knife
  • 1kg white melt-and-pour soap base
  • ¼-¾ tsp yellow natural mineral colour
  • dried lemon peel granules
  • lemon essential oil; surgical spirit in a spray bottle
  • nine dried lemon slices
  • clingfilm

Step 1

“Wearing gloves, chop the melt-and-pour soap into pieces and warm in a heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water, stirring occasionally, until all lumps have melted.”

Step 2

“Add the desired amount of colouring to the melted soap base and stir until the powder has mixed in and the colour is evenly distributed.”

Step 3

“Add the lemon peel granules a little at a time, stirring gently. Continue stirring until all of the granules are spread evenly throughout the soap mixture.”

Step 4

“Just before you pour the soap mixture into the mould, slowly add the essential oil and stir gently until it is evenly distributed throughout.”

Step 5

“Pour approximately three-quarters of the mixture into the mould. Leave the remainder in the bowl over the hot water to keep it melted and warm.”

Step 6

“Spray the mixture with surgical spirit to remove any bubbles. Leave this first layer for 20-25 minutes until it’s almost set. It should be hard but warm.”

Step 7

“Spray the almost-set layer again with surgical spirit. This will act as a glue and help it to bond to the next layer of soap.”

Step 8

“Slowly pour the remaining mixture into the mould and add the dried lemon. You will need to act fast, as the top layer will begin to set as soon as it is poured in.”

Step 9

“Create a 3x3 pattern so that each piece of soap contains a lemon slice. Spritz the surface with surgical spirit to remove any bubbles and leave until hard.”

Step 10

“Remove the soap from the mould and cut it with a knife into nine even squares. Wrap each square in cling film or greaseproof paper to prevent it attracting moisture.”

Handmade Gifts (Dorling Kindersley, £11.89) is out now in hardback (dk.com)

Soap recipe variations

“All of these combinations follow the same method as the lemon soap above – using 1kg of white melt-and-pour base – and make nine square bars.”

Bergamot Soap

  • ¼-¾ tsp orange natural mineral colour
  • 2½ tsps bergamot essential oil

Rose Soap

  • 9 whole dried orange slices rose soap
  • 2½ tsps rose absolute
  • diluted in 5% grapeseed oil
  • 100g rose buds

Cinnamon Soap

  • ¼-¾ tsp caramel natural mineral colour
  • 2½ tsps cinnamon leaf essential oil
  • 9 cinnamon sticks

Camomile Soap

  • ¼-¾ tsp dark green natural mineral colour
  • 2½ tsps camomile essential oil
  • 35g camomile flowers

Lavender Soap

  • ¼-¾ tsp purple natural mineral colour
  • 2½ tsps lavender essential oil
  • 10g dried lavender

Sandalwood Soap

  • ¼-¾ tsp light brown natural mineral colour
  • 2½ tsps sandalwood essential oil
  • 50g blue poppy seeds

Vanilla Soap

  • ¼-¾ tsp cream natural mineral colour
  • 2½ tsps vanilla essential oil
  • 30g vanilla pods

Juniper Soap

  • ¼-¾ tsp pink natural mineral colour
  • 2½ tsps juniper essential oil
  • 100g juniper berries

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